GovNews – April 12th 2014 – Socio-economic inequality in the European Union

GovNews is a brief round-up of a select number of the most interesting conversations happening on GovFaces. In today’s edition, the main topic is socio-economic inequality in the European Union and how the European project can help address these disparities. 

Last week GovFace users asked Italian MEP Sergio Gaetano Cofferati a series of questions, ranging in topic from the upcoming European Parliament elections to having the Tobin Tax in the European Union. 

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Question: Given the support of your party for Martin Schulz, what do you think of Alexis Tsipras’ candidacy for the European Commission?

  • Answer: I completely agree with the Democratic Party’s support for Martin Schulz, who I think best embodies the possibility of sharp, concrete change in EU policy. A vote for PD (and implicitly for Schulz) is one more chance at having a progressive president of the EC. Tsipras’ candidacy is respectable, I will have to have a discussion with their side after the elections.


Question: What do you think are the main advantages of the Democratic Party joining the Party of European Socialists? The decision has highlighted some contrasts in policy directions, is there a risk of future impact in the Democratic Party?

  • Answer: Unfortunately, it took the PD a long time to finalize the accession procedure to the PES. I am among those who have acted for this important transition from the beginning, and I do not believe there will be domestic repercussions [i.e. a backlash]. I believe that being committed to European policy implies, in some form, a transfer of sovereignty from the national level, or rather an exercise in political action on a broader level. In this regard, being part of a European party is fundamental; since the PES is the home of European progressives, it is the natural ‘home’ of the PD.


Question: I want to know if it is your intention to advance/promote discussion of the Tobin Tax in the European Parliament.

[Note: The “Tobin Tax” refers to Nobel laureate economist James Tobin’s idea of imposing a tax on foreign exchange transactions to mitigate the impact of often economically destabilizing short-term fluctuations in exchange rates, often as a result of speculation]

  • Answer: Certainly, and this had been done. The EP has taken a stance for the financial transaction tax (FTT). At the moment, with no majority on the Council, few countries have undertaken a closer cooperation procedure. Without a doubt, it is a campaign worth pursuing, the FTT being an indispensable tool for putting a stop to financial speculation and redistributing the cost of the crisis.


Question: Mr Cofferati, Mr Renzi said that Europe represents a great opportunity for Italy but right now it does not give people hope. In your opinion what can be done to improve the situation?

  • Answer: It is true that Europe represents a great opportunity, but we should begin to consider Europe as the principal field for strategic political decisions. In this sense, we have to play a more intense political role in the decisional process and try to change radically the European policies, especially in the economic field.


Question: I know it is a question that is difficult to answer in a few words, but what do you think of the current political situation in Italy?

  • Answer: Actually it seems to me that the question merits a space much larger…In a nutshell: I believe that the economic and social situation requires strong and courageous actions and that there is a huge need for policies that foster growth and redistribute wealth.


A user also asked Polish MEP about socioeconomic inequality in the European Union Jan Olbrycht and how it can be addressed.

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Question: Can the polarization of wages be addressed?

  • Answer: The growing social stratification is one of the consequences of the economic and financial crisis that was slowing down the EU’s economy in the past few years. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to solve the problem of stratification in general – it will always exist. What we can do is to support the weaker [segments of society] and offer them the opportunity to make use of the labour market. Education plays a crucial role here and should also support enterprises to force job-creation. We have got many EU instruments to tackle both issues – e.g. structural funds.